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The politics of public silence: civil society – state relations under the EPRDF regime

Pellerin, Camille Louise (2018) The politics of public silence: civil society – state relations under the EPRDF regime. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Contributing to a larger canon of work that investigates how the presence of civil society organisations in authoritarian settings influences the durability of regimes in power, this thesis sets out to explain how the relationship between the Ethiopian state, under the rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), and civil society organisations, affected regime stability. I demonstrate that the EPRDF tried to use civil society organisations to bolster its rule through: (1) curbing the power of civil society organisations to prevent challenges to its rule; and (2) mobilising civil society organisations as part of its developmental state programme. However, I argue that the EPRDF prioritised control at times at the expense of developmental objectives. While this prevented open contestation from civil society organisations, it indirectly weakened the EPRDF’s rule in two ways. First, the oppression of civil society organisations reduced their ability to function as a bridge between the Ethiopian people and the state, creating a vacuum between the state and citizens. Second, the control established over civil society organisations decreased the EPRDF’s ability to mobilise them behind its developmental state programme on which it tried to build political legitimacy. Drawing on 14 months of fieldwork, this thesis renders the micro-politics of civil society - state relations visible. The analysis goes beyond the publicly observable “silence”, characterised by the absence of open contestation by civil society organisations, and demonstrates the existence of negotiation and conflicts between actors and organisations operating in both spheres. Instead of taking the concepts of civil society and the state for granted, the thesis explores their empirical manifestations in Ethiopia. The contribution of this thesis lies in the nuance of the analysis, shedding light on how different state and civil society organisations, and the actors working within them, are linked and engage with each other.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Camille Louise Pellerin
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Lewis, David and Putzel, James

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